Canada and some of its closest partners say it will take nothing short of a complete end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program for Pyongyang to win an end to sanctions and the broader acceptance of the international community.

The stark warning comes at the start of a major international meeting in Vancouver, where representatives from 20 countries are discussing ways to increase pressure on North Korea and ultimately end its nuclear aspirations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her counterparts from the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Britain kicked off the meeting with a unanimous message for the North Korean government: give up your nuclear weapons.

The North Koreans recently reached out to their South Korean brethren for the first time in years and will participate in next month's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, a development welcomed by Freeland and several other leaders.

Yet they insisted that what U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described as a “maximum-pressure campaign” against North Korea will continue until Kim Jong-Un and his regime agree to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

The participants, whose nations all supported South Korea during the Korean War, will spend the rest of the day behind closed doors, discussing how best to tighten sanctions against the North and possible avenues for diplomacy.

Two of North Korea's largest and most influential neighbours, Russia and China, were not invited to participate in the discussions and have since blasted the Vancouver gathering as potentially harmful to peace efforts.